Bryan and Norwalk’s girls tennis teams were about as evenly matched as it could get on Wednesday.
In the end, the Golden Bears came up just a couple points short.
Norwalk won two of the three matches that went to three sets, including a tiebreaker, to outlast Bryan 3-2 in the second round of the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division II team tournament at Bryan High School.
“I’m not sure I’ve seen more evenly matched teams or a closer match in my coaching career,” said Bryan coach Mitchell Owens, who has spent the last 12 years coaching the Golden Bears. “ ... It was just incredible.”
Bryan junior Mckenzie Adams posted the lone three-set win for the Golden Bears as she knocked off Megan Miller 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 at No. 3 singles.
Emilee Bassett rolled to a win at No. 2 singles for Bryan as she topped Alexa Moore 6-2, 6-2.
“Emilee, she’s really playing some great tennis over the last week or two. Probably the best she’s been playing all season,” Owens said. “Mckenzie has had a bit of an up-and-down year, playing some second singles, playing some third singles, been in some really tough matches, so this is going to give her a big confidence boost to be able to win a three-set match like this.”
Norwalk sealed the match with a pair of dramatic wins.
At No. 1 singles, Norwalk’s Emma Trost needed a third-set tiebreaker to edge Kaitlyn Posey 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (8). Norwalk’s Kennedy Friend and Carley Nickoli held off Gabi Bany and Reese Grothaus 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 at No. 2 doubles.
Owens said he was proud of the fact his players bounced back after opening-set losses.
“It’s tough not to let that first set kind of stand in your way of playing better into the second set,” Owens said. “What we really focused on with both those matches was building momentum into the second set. They were actually down with some larger deficits and won the last couple of games toward the end of the first set, then just couldn’t close it out. But what it did was it built momentum into the second set and we really focused on that.
“It literally went down to the wire after three hours of playing. It was down to the last point on the tiebreak, and it was tied 6-6 and I’m like ‘how much closer can we get here people?’ It was a lot of fun to see, a lot of fun to coach and the only downside is we just didn’t get that last point for the team victory. But I’m not too disappointed because I think we’re going to learn a lot from this and I think we’re going to be a lot better because of it.”
At No. 1 doubles, Erin Bleile and Lauren Metcalf knocked off Bryan’s Haylee Wheeler and Brooke Taylor 6-4, 6-3.
Bryan dropped to 9-3 overall with the loss.
The Golden Bears will be back in action Saturday morning as they host Archbold, Defiance and Wauseon in the Northwest Ohio Doubles Tournament at 9 a.m. at Bryan High School.
“I told our team at the end of the match, I said ‘this is possibly the best thing that could happen for us at this point in the season because we know how close we are to getting to that next level,’” Owens said. “I told them that this is good; we have to look at this as a positive and not a negative and learn from it, and we know now what we can work on for the next month to get to that next level.”